From left: Patrick Motaung, Sharon Eckhardt, Karen Claassens and Victor Mhlakaza of Bateman Engineering Projects make up Johannesburg's Mixed team for the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship that will be held in their city on Thursday, March 4 at the Wanderers Club.
Bateman Engineering proud of host country,
but keen of keeping title in South Africa
In a series of stories leading to the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship on March 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the host country Johannesburg is profiled. Previous installments have profiled teams from Singapore, Chicago, Frankfurt, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, New York, London,, Boston, and Sydney.
JOHANNESBURG, February 22, 2010 — After years of trying, Bateman Engineering Projects reached the top of the mountain at the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Johannesburg last March by winning the Mixed team championship.
"It was unbelievable when we were told that our team had won the Mixed team title," said team member and Company Captain Patrick Motaung. "This was the moment we have been striving for since the second year of the JP Morgan introduction into South Africa. We feel like royalty."
As the first JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship to be held outside of the United States rapidly approaches on March 4 in Johannesburg, the Bateman team also feels like something else — a proud and welcoming host. The world's 36 fastest corporate teams from the Series' 12 cities across five continents and six countries will arrive in South Africa soon for a competition over 3.5 miles and an experience that will stretch cultural horizons much farther than that.
"Our people are warm and friendly but beware of their competitive side on the race day," said Motaung. "After we have taken the titles, we will be friends again at the after party."
Indeed, South African teams have proven to be formidable at recent Championships. Transnet Engineering won both the Men's and Women's team titles and Goldfields took the Mixed crown at the last Series finale held on New York City's Park Avenue on October 4, 2008. Transnet's Men's and Women's team are back this year, joining Bateman as the host country's representatives.
So what should the visiting teams expect?
"South Africans love their sport and are especially crazy about their running," said Motaung. "Visitors must be prepared for a large field of participants. Everyone will be enthusiastic with smiling faces and a hop-hop here and there for a warm-up before the start. The Wanderers Club is a great venue in Johannesburg. You would have to be a bird to fully appreciate the invasion of South Africans onto the Wanderers territory."
The Championship will be held a few minutes prior to the public race, the seventh held in Johannesburg, where the Corporate Challenge annually reaches capacity. Last year, a capacity crowd of 11,911 runners and walkers from 410 companies took part, representing 94 percent growth in the field since the first Corporate Challenge in Johannesburg in 2004. The race is annually capped by a spirited post-race party and rock concert.
"Having international guests will be the cherry on the top of an already great event," said Motaung. "Hopefully it will be a perfect hot summer evening, but not even bad weather will deter the spirit of the people.
"As guests arrive they should consider South Africa their home," Motaung continued. "We are termed “the rainbow nation” and visitors will get a glimpse of this on their arrival at OR Tambo Airport.
"As for the course, it is a mixture of up hills, down hills and a flat, but enjoy every step because, with the lively atmosphere, it is over in a flash. The only tip I will give is “do your training" as there is one steep uphill. After the race there are normally live bands playing and quite a party atmosphere. Some companies have dinner waiting for their athletes. It is an opportunity to relax and enjoy a typical Johannesburg summer evening."
"After the race there are normally live bands playing and quite a party atmosphere," said Patrick Motaung of Johannesburg's Bateman Engineering Projects.
Of course, the charms of South Africa don't end at the boundaries of the famed Wanderers Club.
"The attractions of South Africa have always been the game parks, beaches, and Cape Town's Wine lands, the majestic Garden Route," said Motaung, firmly switching to his tour guide hat.
"To make the most of their stay, visitors should do some research and pre-book their outings. Even if they can't make it to the Kruger Park, there are smaller private game farms close to Johannesburg that are worth a visit. Johannesburg was established because of the gold mines and guests can go on a tour down the mineshaft or a trip to Cullinan for a tour of the discovery of diamonds. Dullstroom is a beautiful fly-fishing area and only about a two and a half hour drive from Johannesburg. Visitors are coming at a fine time of the year weather wise, but must be cautious of our hot sun so bring along the sun block and caps."
But, uniting everything, especially for the South African teams, is a love of running and a sense of competition.
"We are well prepared and we are not going to the Championship just to be part of the occasion, but to leave a big mark nobody will forget," said Motaung. "Our goal is to be the best."
Motaung, a document controller and archiving specialist at Bateman, has been running for years. Like many in South Africa's expansive running fraternity, he is a veteran of the famed Comrades Marathon, a 56-mile race from the City Hall in Pietermaritzburg to Sahara Stadium in Durban. He will be running his 12th Comrades this year.
"Sometimes," said teammate Sharon Eckhardt, "I think he prefers to run somewhere than to take his car."
Eckhardt, a Design Draughtsperson who has worked at Bateman for 20 years, is a multi-sport athlete and a frequent member of the company's corporate teams.
They are joined by Victor Mhlakaza, a Document Controller, who is an ardent runner and has won three silver medals in the Comrades Marathon. He'll run his ninth Comrades this year.
The other member of the team is Karen Claasens, a Department Secretary, who is new to running, but, said Motaung, "has great potential to be a fast runner - this will be showcased on the day of the Championship."
"We have no extraordinary stories. We are four normal people — moms, dads, sons — just going about our business — except we love running," said Motaung. "Our team has never had the privilege of competing in another country. We are, however, very excited to have the Championship here and we would not like to disappoint our company or country by allowing the title to leave South Africa."